Given the circumstances…

In a number of my conversations this week I have heard many people tell me that because of their circumstances they can’t be successful or content in their work. One of my favorite leadership consultants, Cy Wakeman, says this: “Your circumstances are never the reasons you can’t succeed, they are simply the reality in which you must succeed. AND, you will always have extenuating circumstances that you can use as reasons, stories and excuses for lack of results and why your happiness is fleeting.” In coaching managers to engage and work with individuals who tend to blame external forces, I have encouraged opening with sentences like these. Given the circumstances we’re in (e.g. hiring freeze, budget constraints) what ideas do you have for making this work better? Fill in the underlined phrase with the problem or changes you’re experiencing. It’s also helpful to ask ourselves, given the circumstances, what’s one thing I can do to help?

There are definitely circumstances lately that have affected our life and work. I’m not denying that. Too often, we create a story in our head about how that’s affecting our engagement, happiness or ability to be successful, which isn’t true. We bring history and experience with us. That’s normal. We also make judgments, that’s a part of being human. What can get in our way is when the story we’re telling ourselves is outdated and no longer true. “Brain fetch” is a term that means we tell ourselves a story and then our brain goes and looks for evidence to support that story. If we can pause and ask ourselves, “What do I know to be true?” “What are the facts here?” We might discover we’re operating from an outdated story. Continuing to use an old story traps us (or someone else) in a cage. Reframing the story allows us to walk free.  

The next time I catch myself making a snap judgment or complaining and blaming things around me for my unhappiness, I need to pause and ask myself, “Given what I know for sure, could there be another story I could tell myself that would be helpful?” I’m always happy to be a listener if you want to practice this exercise.

Given that it’s Friday, have a good weekend!


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